Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov – Le Chant du Destin
(10 August 1865, Saint Petersburg, Russia – 21 March 1936, Neuilly-sur-Seine [near Paris], France)
Ouverture dramatique pour orchestre, op. 84
(The Song of Destiny: dramatic overture for orchestra / Песнь судьбы, соч. 84)
Dedication: to his counterpoint student Maximilian Steinberg (1883-1946), who had just announced his engagement to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s daughter Nadezhda and his upcoming baptism (conversion) to Russian Orthodoxy from Judaism (following his 1908 graduation from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory). Stravinsky’s Fireworks and
Myakovsky’s Symphony No. 11 were also dedicated to Steinberg.
First edition: Leipzig, Edition M. P. Belaïeff, 1909, plate 2822.
Orchestration: 3 flutes (one doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B-flat, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets (2 in B-flat and 1 in F, labeled contralta), 3 trombones and tuba, timpani, harp, and strings [but unusually, no percussion].
Alexander Glazunov was a prominent Russian composer who became a professor (1899-1905) and later the director of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory (1905-1930), shepherding it through the turbulent times of the Bolshevik Revolution. During his tenure he worked tirelessly to improve the curriculum, raise standards, defend the institute’s autonomy through many political regimes, and establish an opera studio and students’ philharmonic orchestra. His early music was praised by Borodin, Stasov, and the young Stravinsky, but was considered old-fashioned by his best-known student, Dmitri Shostakovich, who attended the Petrograd Conservatory from 1919-1925.
Glazunov’s mother studied piano with Mily Balakirev (1837-1910), who introduced the young Alexander to members of his circle (the Russian “Five,” or Moguchaya Kuchka) and mentored him. After six years of advanced piano study (in 1879), Balakirev introduced him to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who taught both at the Conservatory (1871-1905/06) and privately in his apartments. “Casually Balakirev once brought me the composition of a fourteen-year-old high school student, Sasha Glazunov,” Rimsky-Korsakov recalled. “The boy’s talent was indubitably clear.” He took the young man on as a private student and began to conduct his works from 1882, when Glazunov was sixteen. “His musical development progressed not by the day, but literally by the hour.” …
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